Addressing noise in the workplace

Whether it is constant chatter in the office, or loud drilling on a construction site, noise pollution can result in an unproductive workplace. MARISKA MORRIS looks at some of the approaches to preventing noise in the workplace

Consistently loud working environments can greatly impact on the performance and productivity of employees. Noise pollution can cause irritation and stress or be a distraction, which results in employees making mistakes. In a worst-case scenario, employees can suffer hearing loss or damage.

As audiologist at Custom Care Elri van der Merwe points out: “Noise pollution is more than just an annoyance. It can lead to adverse health effects. In fact, studies have shown that noise pollution can damage physiological and psychological health. It can cause hypertension and even lead to coronary artery disease.”

For this reason, it is important for companies to manage the noise levels in the workplace. This could include reducing the noise of the machinery on the factory floor, or encouraging employees to converse in boardrooms so as to not disturb other office workers.

While each industry will have its own method of intervention, Van der Merwe suggests starting with awareness of what causes noise pollution and its effects. Companies should identify the source of the noise; note its path to the employee; determine any relative contributing factors to excessive noise; and identify solutions.

An employer can implement sound-absorbents panels, ensure proper lubrication and better maintenance of machinery, regularly check noise levels and invest in proper hearing protection.

The NoiseX hearing protection offered by Custom Care provides employees with a personalised fit, which ensures comfort while reducing noise pollution – a key feature of any personal protective equipment (PPE), according to Van der Merwe.

“Every person is unique and requires a specific prescription for PPE. There can’t be a copy-and-paste approach in the roll-out of occupational health and safety products – especially when every employee has a unique workplace environment and requirement,” she explains.

“NoiseX is an attenuation adjustable custom-fit hearing protection product that is calibrated per person to suppress noise to the required legal sound attenuation levels,” says Van der Merwe.

The 3D-printed device can provide a reduction of noise up to 40 decibels (db). Each device issued comes with a real ear measurement certificate. It is lightweight, doesn’t cause pressure or irritation in the ear canal and doesn’t cause build-up of moisture. As the device is also fitted for the specific individual, it can’t be used by anyone else.

“NoiseX users receive training on how to clean and store the device. A quick wash with warm water and soap daily is all that is required. It also comes with a pocket-size receptacle in which to store the device. Provided the product is used and stored correctly, it can be used for a minimum of five years,” Van der Merwe says.

She also emphasises the importance of having the device serviced on an annual basis to ensure it is still fit for use. Custom Care can assist with hearing conservation programmes and database management, which helps companies to meet and improve regulatory compliance.

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SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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